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Alison Smith

Dirty Elections

One interesting bit that didn't make it into my column today is Cutler's opinion towards the Clean Elections act. While he plans to run a privately-financed campaign, he promised that he wouldn't be attacking his opponents for accepting public financing.

I've actually been asking all of the candidates I've spoken to, both clean and traditionally-financed, whether they plan to make it a campaign issue.

Democrat Rosa Scarcelli has had the most nuanced opinion on the subject so far. She says she supports clean elections for legislative races, but strongly opposes using the system for a state-wide race under current economic conditions.

She also pledged not to "fault" her opponents for using clean election funds.

Here's the relevant recorded audio from our conversation:


In recent media coverage on the viability of the fund, Scarcelli has been one of the most vocal opponents of public financing. Here's her quote from MPBN:

"What we're seeing now is that lots and lots of people are getting into the race that don't have the capacity of the desire to raise and finance their own campaigns with their own supporters," says Democrat Rosa Scarcelli of Portland, who is staging a privately-funded campaign. She says she opposes the idea of allowing more private money into publicly-funded campaigns.

"I believe that if we have Clean Election funds and we start to change the rules mid-cycle, we're doing a disservice to the Maine people, who probably as they pay attention to this, will find it troubling that we're paying for funding for campaigns, rather than paying for programs, when we're going to cut another $400 million out of our budget in this emergency session," Scarcelli says.


I'm not sure if that can be considered faulting her opponents, but it's certainly coming close.

It will be interesting how this issue shapes up as the legislature and the ethics commission continue to discuss how to deal with a clean elections fund that has been raided over and over again in order to balance previous budgets and may not have enough money left to make it through the 2010 campaign.

For progressives, myself included, the clean elections system that was passed by state-wide referendum in 1996 is now considered a touchstone of a strong local democracy, our Maine tradition of citizen legislators, and our hopes for people-centered policy.

But will these high-minded ideals take a back seat to immediate economic concerns?

I hope not, especially considering that even scrapping clean elections entirely right this moment and draining the entire fund would only close about 1% of the current budget gap.